Saturday 20 January 2024

The Annual Book Round-up

 This year I set myself the target of 50 books and managed 66. As ever when I am stressed I read avidly, it is an escape mechanism for me, so the end of the year was bumper.

It's been another year of plenty of 'Meh' books from the Had it for ages but never got around to reading it book mountain which I vowed to make a dent in this time last year. To be fair, I did make a dent in it. I also got rid of some unread when I had the cull before we moved because I just knew having put them off this long, I never would get round to them.

My only Janaury resolution for this year (which was actually decided upon in October) is to read my bookshelves. I did toy with saying no buying new books for a year whist I cracked on with this, but realistically I knew I would break the resolution, becasue if nothing else, my favourite author Kate Morton has a new book out. (In fact I've already broken it becasue I bought Judi Dench's book on Shakespeare over the Christmas holidays!) So instead I decided I would endeavour to keep the buying of new books as minimal as possible during 2024...wish me luck.  

In terms of reading my bookshelves. I made the decision for two reasons, one because there were some books I know I will move on, but I wanted some time to either re-read or skim through them before I did, so they moved with me. Second there were books I have kept for years because I read them back when I bought them, loved them then, so kept them but have not looked at them again since. (Some have now moved with me 4 times now.) I decided to see if they deserve to remain.

I also had sets. My brother and I were discussing this, that we were the generation that if you were into an an author or a band you bought everything they put out, and kept it even if you hated it, becasue you wanted to have the complete set.

As you will see from the list below that was certainly the case for Denise Robertson! I'm pretty sure I bought 'None to Make You Cry' first, really enjoyed it and bought more, 13 in total! I kept 2.

I know my tastes have changed because as said above a few of the books on the list I know I kept because I LOVED them when I first read them, but this time round they just left me cold. To the point I was actually questioning my own taste. Case in point 'The Rose Tree'. I can remember enjoying it and indeed bawling my eyes out at the ending. Yet this time round I really struggled, I actually had to force myself to finish it and then thought why on earth did I cry at this??  

Anyway below is the list including my rating score. I'm already a couple of books into 2024's challenge of 55 books. 

I shall leave you with a tweet that I loved from a publisher who had asked the public for their ideas for a vampire story. The one they quoted was; A woman deliberatly gets bitten by a vampire just so she can live forever and finally get through all the books in her 'to read' pile.  

Through the Keyhole: Sex, Scandal and the Secret Life of the Country House Susan Law 3

Fire Woman:The Extraordinary Story of Britain's First Female Firefighter Josephine Reynolds 2

The Wild Silence Raynor Winn 3

The Haunting Season:Ghostly Tales for Winter Nights Various 3

Mrs Benson’s Beetle Rachel Joyce 4

Nöthin' But a Good Time:The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion Tom BeaujourRichard Bienstock 3

Kitted Out: Style and Youth Culture in the Second World War Caroline Young 4


One more Croissant for the Road Felicity Cloake 3


Miranda’s Big Mistake Jill Mansell 1


This Much is True Miriam Margolyes 4

The Pathfinders: The Elite RAF Force that Turned the Tide of WWII  Will Iredale 3


Again Rachel Marian Keyes 3


Watchmen Alan Moore 2


The Fair Botanists Sara Sheridan 1 

Sisters in Arms:The Women Who Flew in World War II Helena Page Schrader 4


The Family Remains Lisa Jewell 3


Forever Home Graham Norton 2


The Dress Diary of Mrs Anne Sykes Kate Strasdin 4


Bleeding Heart Yard Elly Griffiths 4


Landlines Raynor Winn 3


The Newcomer Fern Britton 1


The Garden by the Sea Amanda James 2


The Bullet That Missed Richard Osman 4


Under a Cornish Sky Liz Fenwick 2


Lessons in Chemistry Bonnie Garmus 3

Yorkshire Women at War:Story of the Women's Land Army Hostels Marion Jeffries 2


Daisy Jones and The Six Taylor Jenkins Reid 3


A Spoonful of Murder J M Hall 2


A Pen Dipped in Poison J M Hall 3


V E day Russell Miller 2

Gatsby's Oxford:Scott, Zelda, and the Jazz Age Invasion of Britain:1904-1929 Christopher Snyder 2

Art Deco House Styles Trevor Yorke 4


A Brief History of Tea Roy Moxham 4


London Shopfronts Emma Page 3


Ravenmaster Christopher Skaife 3


Victoria Wood the Authorised Biography Jasper Rees 3


Pirates and Privateers Tom Bowling 1

Denim and Leather:The Rise and Fall of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal Michael Hann 3

Fred and Eddie Jill Dawson 3

Serpents in Eden: Countryside Crimes Martin Edwards 3

A Pin to See the Peepshow F. Tennyson Jesse 3


The Last Remains Elly Griffiths 4


The Lost Bookshop Evie Woods 4


Murder at the House on the Hill Victoria Walters 2


Murder at the Summer Fete Victoria Walters 2


Murder at the Village Church Victoria Walters 2


The American Airman in Europe Roger Freeman 4

Blood and Fears: How America’s Bomber Boys and Girls in England Won their War Kevin Wilson 3

The Anxious Heart Denise Robertson 2

The Land of Lost Content Denise Robertson 2

None to Make You Cry Denise Robertson 4

Irish Girls About Town: An Anthology of Short Stories Various 2

Girl’s Night In Various 1

Twenties Girl Sophie Kinsella 2

A Vintage Affair Isabel Wolff 3

The Cruellest Month Hazel Holt 2

The Rose Tree Mary Walkin Keane 1

The Second Wife Denise Robertson 3

The Stars Burn On Denise Robertson 2

Remember the Moment Denise Robertson 1

A Relative Freedom Denise Robertson 2


Act of Oblivion Denise Robertson 3


Daybreak Denise Robertson 2


Wait for the Day Denise Robertson 3


Illusion Denise Robertson 2


Larksleve Patricia Wendorff 2

Sunday 14 January 2024

December Round Up - Exhibitions, Friends and a lot of Eating!

 Hello and a very Happy New Year to you all. 

I had hoped to post a little earlier than this but January is always crazy busy for work and after a day glued to the work laptop I'm only too happy to get away from the screen and spend my evenings knitting/sewing and watching TV!  

For someone who wasn't hugely looking forward to Christmas this year December actually turned out to be a lovely and very busy month. It turns out I started as I meant to go on by meeting my friends Simon, Liz and Carole for lunch. Carole has had some health and mobility issues so Liz kindly hosted us as she lives closest to the station. We had delicious homemade soup and bread, followed by mince pies (also homemade) with clotted cream, all washed down with plenty of prosecco. We also got to meet one of Liz's new rescue dogs Mabel (so called because she has no teeth and is very nosy so Liz felt she needed an old lady curtain twitcher name.) She is an absolute sweetie. The other Sky had to temporarily go back to the animal shelter because it turned out they had missed she was pregnant! They had mixed up her notes with her mother's apparently (she was rescued with almost 100 other dogs from appalling conditions.) At that point she had just given birth, cue much oohing over adorable puppy pictures. Liz will collect her again when the pups are weened and Sky has had the snip. It was lovely to catch up and the afternoon was gone in a flash.

I got home and finished writing my Christmas cards. I was trying to do them super early as quite a few people were not aware we had moved. I also put up my tree and got some of the snowmen out of hibernation. Himself and I had decided not to do presents this year. Moving had made it only too clear just how much 'stuff' we already have, I saw no reason to add to it all just for the sake of having something to unwrap. 

My proviso was that Himself would still buy me my Rupert annual. I've had one every year since I was born (about 40 years worth are currently stored in my Mother's loft!) Himself took on the tradition from my Dad who took it on from my Nan who bought the first one when I was just 5 months old.

Of course we both broke our promise, but we didn't go mad. In my case I tried to made sure everything I bought him was either useable/needed like shower gel or edible/drinkable like posh coffee and beer. I did also impulse buy a board game based on St Ives and a lovely limited edition print of St Ives from an artist at the Christmas market in Oxford. 

The 2nd weekend in December saw the annual Christmas tree festival in our neighbouring village.


 Thankfully the rain paused on the Sunday so we headed out for a walk late afternoon to get there as it started to get dark.

It was beautiful, I love how many people get involved and the advent of solar powered lights meant you came across trees in very random spots, like this one sitting in the middle of a field!

The 12th December was our team Christmas lunch followed by a quiz. This year we went to the newly opened Cosy Club in Oxford.

I fell in love with the Deco style sunburst chairs. We were greeted by one of the staff who said there were a few parties that day so they hoped we didn't mind but we had been moved to the private dining room.


As you can imagine we didn't mind at all! Full of food and drink we headed back to work for the annual Christmas quiz written and hosted by my boss, he's a big fan of both quizzes and Christmas so takes it very seriously. It's great fun though, involving several other departments and lasts most of the afternoon. My team didn't win. I didn't go on to the pub afterwards as the trains had been all over the place with last minute cancellations and services ending early, I wanted to make sure I could get home. 

On the 14th I meet my friend Franzi after work for 2 for 1 cocktails and dinner. Franzi and I used to work in the same 'pod' in our team. We had a good bitch about work and caught up on news over Last Mango in Paris cocktails in The Lighthouse and a burger at GBK.

The 15th was the staff Christmas party at work. I haven't been for quite a few years now, I've never been a fan of enforced jollity, but this year I decided to go for once. I actually had a good time but left before the end, partly because I had had enough by that point and partly as someone mentioned there were yet more issues with the trains. Sure enough I got to the station to a tranch of cancellations and delays so was glad that I had left when I did. 

The 20th December I met my friend Charlotte in London for our long overdue visit to The Fashion and Textile Museum's exhibition The Fabric of Democracy. We were meant to go in October but the move put paid to that. On first glance I thought wow this is a small exhibition, but once you start going round it is exactly the right size. Any more would detract from the power of the message. It was fascinating and thought provoking. I was completely absorbed.


We left the Museum and found a little Italian where we tucked into bowls of freshly made pasta with tomato and aubergine sauce - Yum! We were going to mooch along the river to Covent Garden but ran out of time so settled for a browse around Borough Market and a huge cinnamon bun from one of the stalls for dessert.

Himself and I called in on Nephew Number One and his partner on the 21st to drop off presents and have a catch up on news. It was a lovely evening but we didn't stay too late as we were all working the next day.

On the 23rd Soo came over to have a catch up and exchange pressies. I showed her round the house first as she last saw it full of boxes and muddy footprints! We the headed out for a walk and a pub lunch. Stuffed full we waddled back and had literally just sat down with a cup of tea when my Mum arrived. Himself and I were going to stay with Mum for a couple of days, so once Soo left we jumped in the car to Mum's. As ever we were fed to within an inch of our lives whilst there. 

As we pulled into the drive there was a stunning rainbow or nacreous cloud over the village, so Himself and I both shot out of the car to take a picture.

On Christmas Eve we had a lazy start to the day. The weather was pretty miserable but we decided to take a chance and go out for a walk. We started at the church (seen above) so Mum could show us her handiwork, she does church flowers, then took a big circuit around the village. We were at the far end of the village when the rain really started to come down fortuitously The Lamb pub was in sight so we stepped in for a drink or two until it eased enough for us to head home to cook dinner. 

Christmas Day was another lazy start, we weren't due at my brother's until the afternoon. We drove over calling in here first to drop off our bags which would mean Mum could leave when she was ready too and we would walk home later. My brother had cooked a delicious dinner so again we ate and drank our fill. Mum did well and lasted until 8.30pm before she took herself home, we stayed until about 10.30pm before heading home. Himself had imbibed well so disappeared to bed as soon as we got in, but I sat down and let myself remember and miss my Dad at his favourite time of year.

Boxing Day we just slothed at home as Himself was back to work on the 27th. I on the other hand was off and had plans. On the 27th I jumped on the train to Oxford to meet Soo. We had tickets to see the Colour Revolution exhibition at The Ashmolean Museum.

Step into a revolution of colour and dispel our monochrome idea of Victorian Britain


Rediscover Victorian society as a vibrant colour-filled era – from dazzling dyes used in chic corsets, bold experiments by avant-garde painters, and the flamboyant use of nature's beauty in jewellery.

As Britain’s industrial revolution gained pace, new scientific breakthroughs allowed the Victorians to become increasingly revolutionary in their use of colour, with new hues greeted with both excitement and suspicion. This explosion of colour was embraced by artists, designers and many others in all walks of 19th-century life.
 
The exhibition includes fashion pieces – from Queen Victoria’s monotone mourning dress to the most daringly vivid clothing and accessories – and works by artists including Millais, Ruskin, Rossetti, Turner and Whistler, as well as objects from around the world and some of the earliest colour 'photograms'. It reveals the vital role that colour has played in shaping our art and culture and offers a rare opportunity to see some of these objects on public display.
 

It was such an interesting and well, colourful exhibition. I loved the mixture of clothing alongside the usual paintings and sculptures I'm used to from the Asmolean. 

We all know what this feels like!

It was pouring with rain when we left the museum so we decided to the Indoor Market and try Georgina's for lunch. I love it there, it's a tiny Greek cafe that has been there for donkeys years and does amazing food so it's always packed, luckily we nabbed the last table. After eating our fill we mooched some of the shops which were doping a brisk trade despite the weather.

On the 28th I popped down to my brother's house so Caron could give my hair a much needed cut and colour. From there I headed to the station and into Oxford again. This time to have a long overdue reunion drink with some girls I used to work with. Megan has moved to Scotland but was home visiting her parents for Christmas, Daniella and Franzi have both moved to different teams at the Business School but Daniella is also currently on  maternity leave. 

I arrived first only to find the pub we had planned to meet in was randomly closed. Thankfully the one around the corner was open so I dashed in there, as ever the weather was terrible, and messaged the others. Where would we be without mobile phones?

Daniella arrived first but couldn't stay for long as she had to meet her Mum and head home to her baby. Megan got there shortly after but frustratingly Franzi's train was delayed so Daniella had to leave before she arrived. We have been trying to get the 4 of us together on and off all year and every time something conspires against us. Anyway we three had a lovely catch up and took a quick selfie before Daniella left.

Franzi finally arrived. We were having such a good time we decided to get some dinner so we could carry on. I sent Himself a quick message to fend for himself when it came to dinner and we walked up to Ask Italian. We ended up sitting there chatting until they were ready to close!

The last few days of the year were spent pottering and doing housework. That's my December. I'll be back with the annual book round up very soon.

Friday 8 December 2023

November Round-up.

Thank you for the kind comments to my last post, I do appreciate you. It's good to be more settled and to start feeling like myself again.


Anyway To jump back slightly to the 31st of October and our anniversary. Cleaning our old house was not how I would have planned to spend it but that was what we ended up doing, well for the morning anyway. We had had to hire a carpet cleaner so my Mum popped round with her car so we could drop it back off and also brought lunch as she was fretting about us not eating. 

Whilst in town she wanted to go to Robert Dyas and pick up some water filters so I nipped to Boots to pick up a prescription and then met her and Himself there. The shopping gods were smiling on us because they had a set of saucepans by Salter with 65% off. We had found out the day before that the new house has an induction hob, which was literally the straw that broke the camel’s back when we got home exhausted, and in my case, craving pasta that night only to find none of our current saucepans are suitable so we couldn’t cook on the hob. Himself was livid that nowhere had this been mentioned so I left him to have a shower and calm down whilst I trudged off to the chip shop.

I could  have really done without having to buy a whole new set of pans, especially as the ones I have a really good, but there it was. for our anniversary Mum brought sandwiches, cakes and a bottle of prosecco. It turned out Himself had also booked a table for dinner at our favourite pub. At first I wasn't sure I could face it I was so tired and stressed, but actually it was lovely to put on a dress and make-up and go out for dinner. I had a delicious slow cooked lamb shank with mashed potatoes and seasonal veg whilst Himself had locally sourced sausages and chips. We shared a homemade orange cheesecake for pudding before waddling back home.

 

The 8th November would have been my Dad’s birthday so I took the day off work and spent it with Mum. I was worried how she would be but in the end we spent the afternoon reminicing rather than being sad.  The 11th would have been their anniversary, so the family went out for lunch and raised a toast. I still miss him every day.

 

I also went to a gig on the 10th. A friend of my brother’s is in a band who were supporting the American rock band, Warrior Soul. Back in the day I loved Warrior Soul, and had a major crush on the lead singer Kory Clarke!  I have seen them before a couple of times, but not for many, many years so it seemed a no brainer. 

I seriously need to spot the flags…the major one being why on earth an American band were playing a teeny tiny venue in Reading.


When we got there my brother caught up with his friend and the feedback was that Kory had done a great rehearsal so it should be a good show, depending on how much he drank in between then and going on stage!

Let’s just say when he did hit the stage, he had clearly done a fair bit of drinking, not just that night, but in the intervening years since I had last seen them live. His singing voice had gone completely so he just shouted in a hoarse voice for the whole gig, and I know it’s shallow of me, but other than the hair (which was still gorgeous) the once handsome face was unrecognisable. I sometimes think if the powers that be want to put young people off drink and drugs, don’t show them pictures of diseased livers or lungs, show them a before and after shot of a lifelong substance abuser. 


I understand why people say you can’t go back and don’t meet you idols, I think a little piece of 20 year old Me’s heart broke that night.

 

On the 17th I was up early and off to Paris for work. I had only recently been there at the end of June, (when Paris was gripped by a heatwave, and it was still 30 degrees at 8pm at night!) so this time I booked my return straight after the fair I was attending on the Saturday. 

I’m quite glad I did because it poured with torrential rain pretty much the whole time!


 The lady I was sat next to on the train going there and I got chatting and ended up having a wonderful conversation for the whole journey. We talked about everything and anything, hugged and kissed cheeks when we parted, and in that typical British fashion didn’t once actually exchange names!


According to the maps my hotel was a 5-minute walk from a metro stop but when I came up the stairs there were major roadworks which meant to rather than being able to cross the road, I had to head off on a major diversion which meant I got completely lost and even with google maps it took me nearly an hour to finally find my hotel! 

I had a wander along the Champs Elysee and then mooched back to a little café/bistro nearby the hotel.  Having now done Paris twice and Brussels once, I think I can safely say solo travel is not for me. I find the travel itself incredibly stressful and frankly it’s just bloody lonely to sightsee and eat on your own. Due to budgetary constraints at work it is the new normal now, so I guess I will have to get used to it. Thankfully the journey home was uneventful and by 10.30pm I was in bed with a huge glass of wine watching Strictly on the laptop!

 

On the 25th I headed to Brimingham. The plan was to meet Charlotte at Banbury station then Alex at New Street in Birmingham, but sadly Alex tested positive for covid a couple of days before so had to cancel. 

As we had already bought our rail tickets Charlotte and I decided to go anyway. Good lord it felt like the world and his dog was in Birmingham that day! I guess it does show the need for high streets is still there, but it was just too busy for me. 

I had hideous train journeys on trains wedged full of people so had to stand all the way. Our first stop was a much-needed hot drink at 200 Degrees coffee shop. We both prefer to go with an independent shop rather than a chain, and Alex, who is a bit of a coffee fiend, loves it there. They were doing a brisk trade but we managed to snag a table so we could sit down with our brews and have a good catch up. We then set out for what became a fairly brief look at the Christmas market. It quickly became apparent it was mostly extremely over-priced food and drink, so we quickly headed away from the central streets. 

We found a smaller market in the cathedral square which was much more our sort of thing, all local artisans and crafts people. We had a leisurely browse and both made some purchases there before decamping to the wonderful (and conveniently nearby) Damascena for a delicious lunch. It’s always busy there but we thankfully only had to queue for about 15 minutes before we got seated. Very randomly the star of lunch for both of us was the mango Sunshine Shake we had both chosen as a drink, I’m still dreaming about it now!

It was one of those gloriously sunny but bitterly cold days so after lunch we went for a mooch around the streets of Birmingham trying to avoid all the crowds before grabbing a cup of tea and going our separate ways. Charlotte to Moor Street Station and me to New Street. From where I endured another packed train home, before I could collapse with a 4-cheese pizza and a very large glass of wine!

 

I finished the month by going out for dinner with Soo and Melissa. Both had come and helped us move house so it was lovely to see them when I was feeling more like myself and not demented with stress. They had decided on Jericho in Oxford and as they were meeting about an hour before I could get out of work. I found them happily ensconced in The Jericho Tavern drinking pints of Tribute, I was definitely ready for a beer after a full-on day at work, and gratefully accepted a pint before we decided on where to go for dinner. 

We went to The Old Bookbinders on the of chance and managed to get a table providing we were gone by 8pm. They have a delicious French menu and I was almost swayed by the Coq au Vin but instead tucked into a hearty fish pie. As Himself doesn’t like fish I don’t get to cook and eat something a pungently fishy as fish pie at home. The service was attentive without making us feel rushed and by 7.45pm we were replete ready to go. 

We completed our trio if pubs with The Victoria as they always decorate at this time of year with real greenery, which when combined with the open fire and the mulled wine behind the bar, well the smell is pure Christmas.


So that was November and now we are galloping towards the end of the year so more anon.

Sunday 19 November 2023

Waving or Drowning? - 2023 so far.

 Well back in May when I was blogging about our wonderful trip to Cornwall I didn’t anticipate disappearing until November. 

Whilst I was still coming to terms with losing Dad and therefore having good and bad days, I had hoped to have a good summer. I already had a few plans in place to catch up with friends, go on some days out, exhibitions etc. 

The other big thing was we have also been looking for a house to buy, I was waiting until that was a done deal before sharing some of our crazy mad experiences of house hunting.

We first started looking for a house last year when the mortgage rates were low and it was silly season. We are talking queues outside properties, strict 15-minute viewing slots often with 2-3 couples looking round at the same time and ending in an immediate closed bid if you were interested. It was pretty intense and pressurized particularly when it was somewhere you loved and you were ‘significantly’ outbid, and at times ridiculously funny.

We saw a house so damp it was almost its own water feature, and another so filthy the agent stayed outside and advised us to put a disposable glove on our prominent hand in case we touched anything! I was also subjected to a 15-minute haranguing for being ‘too fussy’ because I didn’t want to make an offer on a house I didn’t like and got very fed-up with all the pushy phone calls.

 

Moving on to this year and the interest rates went up, up, up. Suddenly there were only about 3 houses on the market that nobody wanted including us. At this point our landlord offered us the house we were renting. He knew our top budget (he works for an estate agency and we were on their books) and was pushing for that full amount. He couched it in terms of doing us a deal because he and his wife, as it turns out mostly his wife, were actually after a great deal more.

We gave it some serious thought as there were pros and cons. The house needs a fair bit doing to it and as it turns out on further investigation, has a major issue, that being Japanese Knotweed in the garden. We made a lower offer mentioning these things and our landlord actually laughed about the knotweed in the garden and said no.

We looked at a couple of other places that came up but they were no good, so we had another serious discussion about our rental. We decided to get the work that needed doing priced up and see where that left us. We also spoke to our mortgage adviser who in a nutshell said don’t touch it with a barge pole as soon as he heard there was knotweed on the property! He said it was unlikely we would get a mortgage and even if we did, it was highly unlikely we would be able to sell again at a later date because future buyers wouldn’t get a mortgage.

Himself was still keen so I contacted a company that removes knotweed and asked for a quote and out of courtesy let our landlord know, we remade our same offer stating again why we were offering that price. 

This time our landlord literally had an egg. Apparently he had thought Himself was joking when he mentioned the knotweed!?! He said he was not prepared to go any lower and if we didn’t want it for that price, he was giving us notice. So suddenly just like that we were looking at trying to find somewhere to rent or buy in 8 weeks or be homeless... 

I think with hindsight he was pissed off about the knotweed which he claims he knew nothing about. We had always assumed he already knew as he would have had a survey done when he bought the place. If nothing else he was originally going to build another house at the bottom of the garden so again we had assumed he knew about the knotweed and would have it dealt with when he built. I guess all the corners he cut and the rock bottom deal he did when he bought the house was not such a bargain after all.

 

It's hard to articulate how difficult the last few months have been. We were frantically trying to find somewhere else to rent just when there was nothing, literally nothing. If you follow the news, you will know the rental market also dried up overnight with the interest hikes and there are lists of desperate people all chasing the same places and many others being evicted at an alarming rate.


I can’t begin to tell you what it feels like to start packing when you actually have nowhere to go, to keep working full time and smiling and interacting like usual when you haven’t slept properly in weeks, when you are struggling to concentrate on anything other than this and you can’t eat or drink with the stress and worry. It certainly didn’t help that work is still pretty shit too, but that I was sucking up, I couldn’t be looking for a new job too. I ended up throwing my pride out the window and actually begged our landlord to please not make us homeless. Thankfully, he seemed to have calmed down and remembered that for the last almost 7 years we had been model tenants, so he agreed to give us a little more time. It seems he also spoke to the rental side of his agency because when I rang up about a property that had of course already gone, on hearing who I was the lady said ‘Oh I’m holding a property for you didn’t he tell you?’ me ‘No, no he didn’t.’


We had a bit of pussyfooting around with the current tenants who were in the process of buying somewhere and didn’t want us to come round for a viewing until they were ‘further along in their house buying process’ but eventually we got to see it once they had exchanged. At this point Himself said unless it’s got swastikas in the brickwork and Rosemary West in the landlord, we are taking it. Thankfully it had neither, so we did on a minimum 12-month lease. 

It is fine, it has a rather quirky and frustratingly impractical layout but it’s a good size and only a few streets away from where we currently lived. 


You would think my stress levels might have started to recede a bit knowing we had somewhere but sadly they didn’t and indeed they peaked to such a point that I managed to scare family members and friends with the state I was in. I swear these things get harder as you get older. 

The move was intense, and I am eternally grateful and in utter awe of the friends and family who rallied round to help us move our epic amount of stuff in just one day, for the most part in the pouring rain too. 

I was and am horrified and a bit ashamed by the sheer volume of ‘stuff’ we have both accumulated. This even after I got rid of bag after bag to various charity shops. Over 100 books went to Oxfam and the depressing thing is looking at my bookcases you would never tell!


The thing I have found heartening is that this time round I seem to be much more able to let things go and be more subjective. Do I really need it? Will I ever use it, wear it, fit in it again? do I even like it anymore? Which means as I unpack, I am still downsizing, to the point that the lady in the British Heart Foundation shop knows our name and address by heart as I am in there pretty much every other day with a bag or box of donations! We will never be minimalist, and I know I need to be more ruthless, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.    

 

So, 3 weeks on and we are getting there. In an ideal world I would have liked to have only moved the once and found our forever home but that clearly wasn’t to be this year. I’m just hoping 2023 is done with us and 2024 might be a kinder year. We will start house hunting again in the new year and hopefully, hopefully, it will happen for us this time. Above all I just want to be happy again because this person I am right now is not me. Having said that I am sleeping better, feeling like eating and also getting out and about again.

 

We had our usual long weekend in Bournemouth booked in for September. As it was all paid and we would have lost that all if we didn’t go, we had our trip even though at that point nothing was confirmed. I have to say it did do us the world of good. The weather was glorious and being by the sea, in fact just being away really did help.

 


Packing, moving, unpacking and cleaning the old house from top to bottom has been physically and mentally draining. I have never been more aware that at 55 I’m not capable of the same things I was. Frankly I’m tired. I would love nothing more than whisking away to a little bolthole somewhere by the coast to re-charge but sadly that is not to be before the end of the year so I shall keep on keeping on.

 

Anyway this has been a longer and more personal post than I planned. Hopefully normal blogging service will be resumed shortly, though with less shopping. I really, really do not need more stuff!  

Monday 10 July 2023

A Cornish Adventure Part Three

 Our final morning in St Ives was another glorious one and saw us saying a sorry goodbye to the apartment that had been our home for the week. We took a slow meander down through the town and along the seafront before heading up to the bus stop where we joined the queue of people waiting for the bus to Penzance. 

We got chatting to a couple in the queue who were from Sweden. They had been walking some of the South West Coastal path on one of those schemes where your luggage is picked up by courier and delivered to the various hotels you have booked along the way so you can walk the path with just what you need for the day. They had train tickets booked with the Trainline to travel from St Ives to London, then on to Gatwick for an evening flight home. They had not been sent any warnings about the train strikes, so had literally arrived ready to travel home and found the station shut! They were frantically trying to figure out what they could do and were hoping they could hire a car in Penzance with the idea of them driving all the way to Gatwick. I felt so sorry for them, what a horrid way to end your holiday. We had everything crossed for their onward journey.

 

Once in Penzance, we hoped off the bus in the town centre and headed to our B&B which was on the same street we stayed at 5 years ago. When we thought we were only having to book one extra night we had gone for somewhere more central, but now we were staying a couple of nights this location halfway between the town centre and Newlyn was ideal.

It’s a wide tree lined street full of hotels and B&Bs, check in was meant to be 4pm but we had arranged to arrive early and drop our bags off, with the plan to mooch in town and head back for 4pm to check in properly. As luck would have it our room was ready when we arrived at 12, so we were able to check in straight away giving us the whole afternoon as a bonus. Our room was gorgeous, bright and airy at the top of the house with a big bay window over the road. We did a bit of quick unpacking and headed out into the sun.

The weather really was lovely, so we decided to walk to Marizion and St Michael’s Mount. When we arrived, the causeway was just clearing so we were able to walk right over, however when we got there a member of staff was greeting people and warning them there were only 15 minutes until the last entry closed,  and only an hour until the island shut. 

We decided to save our visit for another time. Instead, we pottered around Marizion, finding a craft fair in the church hall which I dragged Himself into. I couldn’t resist one enticing looking gift shop where I found a birthday card for my friend and some amazing earrings made from recycled copper for myself.

 Final purchase was an ice cream to eat as we strolled back to Penzance.

Once we got in, we collapsed on the chairs in the bay window with a refreshing drink, we had both managed to catch the sun despite sunblock. The only downside of our room became apparent, the road below was fairly busy so there was traffic noise (I really must start travelling with earplugs) The other constant noise was the crows! As mentioned, the street was tree lined, and literally every one of the many trees had a colony of crows nesting in it. When they all decided to start cawing at once well, the noise was just incredible. Anyway, I digress.

 We had a table booked at The Bridge in Newlyn that evening. It’s one of several highly recommended restaurants in Newlyn, which seems to be well on it’s way to being the latest chi-chi area to live by the looks of things. I’m not sure that is necessarily a good thing. We arrived with a bit of time to spare so I took Himself to see a little hidden part of the town that I had randomly seen Michal Portillo visit on a TV show the previous week!

The restaurant was bliss, not too big and with a lovely, relaxed vibe. The owner seated us and throughout the evening sporadically wondered through to chat with people and help serve. I chose the aubergine parmigiana, I love aubergine and as soon as I saw it on the menu that was it for me. The owner was delighted and was soon waxing lyrical about how every Italian mama has her own version and how every Italian son would travel continents just to get home to eat it, how it should be cooked slowly for hours. I think Himself had glassed over by this point. I have to say when it came the dish was delicious and so plentiful there was no room for pudding. Replete with good food and wine we strolled back along the seafront before turning in for the night.

 


The next morning was another hot one and after breakfast we set off for Mousehole, slathered in suncream with my burnt bits from yesterday covered up! 


It was a gorgeous walk and once there we had absolutely no agenda. We wandered wherever took our fancy, up steep winding streets and down hidden alleyways, with me popping into a couple of the touristy gift shops that I couldn’t resist. 


I had spotted a pair of sparkly crab earrings in a shop that was shut with a ‘back in 30 minutes’ sign on the door. We ambled back 40 minutes later and it was still shut, so we gave it another 15 and nope still shut. Boo.

By now it was lunchtime so Himself suggested a drink, we headed back towards the harbour and found a pub where we settled in a window seat to watch the world go by. When it was time to leave Himself suggested giving the shop one more try and this time it was open! 

Earrings purchased we walked back to Penzance stopping in a couple of junk shops in Newlyn on the way. We walked the full length of the seafront down to the Jubilee Pool then back through the town centre looking in any shops that took our fancy before going to put our feet up for a couple of hours back at the B&B. 

We didn’t really have any plans that night, I had wanted to go back to the Admiral Benbow at some point because I had loved it’s cluttered madness when we visited 5 years ago, Himself was not so keen as it had freaked him out then! As we were leaving the B&B we bumped into the owner who asked us where we were going and then suggested The Dolphin as we hadn’t booked anywhere and it was a Saturday. We had eaten there before and knew the food was good so decided to give it a go. Luckily as it was still early, we were able to get a table for two.

 I had delicious fresh caught fish with samphire and sprouting broccoli whilst Himself, who as you may recall hates fish, ate chilli. We knew we had an early start the next day so decided to buy a bottle of wine to take back and drink in our room, I was secretly delighted because it was Eurovision which I never usually miss. So armed with wine and some mint chocolate buttons I settled in front of the TV. Bliss.     

The next morning we had an early breakfast, settled our bill and headed to the station to see exactly what trains were running and to where. Luck was on our side and there was an early train heading to London and calling at Reading leaving in the next 20 minutes so we jumped aboard. We only had to buy tickets from Penzance to St Erth as they were honouring strike day tickets. I’m so glad we caught the train at Penzance, which is the start of the journey and meant we could get a seat, because it very rapidly became packed full and standing. I guess there were many other people like us who were now trying to get home. Thankfully it was an uneventful journey, and we were back in the house by late afternoon. 

Considering when I first found out we were going to have to book extra days I was not at all happy, we did have a really great time. So thank you Cornwall as ever, and here’s to next time.